Jim Collins

Andrea Syverson is the founder and president of IER Partners, which has guided and strengthened brands of all sizes with savvy best practices for creating customers for life. Combining her passion of adventurous listening and working across diverse industries, her "outsider-insider" creative branding and merchandising expertise and objectivity has been valued by companies as diverse as Spanx, Ben & Jerry's, Celestial Seasonings, CHEFS and Boston Proper.  She holds an MBA and has dedicated more than 20 years to providing clients both domestic and international with innovative approaches to branding, product development and creative messaging. She is the author of  two books in which she shares her hands-on approach for both brand building and creating customer-centric products that enhance brands: ThinkAbout: 77 Creative Prompts for Innovators, and BrandAbout: A Seriously Playful Approach for Passionate Brand-Builders and Merchants. You may reach her at asyverson@ierpartners.com.
Michael Lowenstein, PhD, CMC, is thought leadership principal for Beyond Philosophy, a U.S.-based international customer management experience consultancy. He's an international conference keynoter and speaker, workshop facilitator and trainer, author and a contributor to two customer loyalty newsletters and portals. He has more than 30 years of management and consulting experience with expertise in customer and employee loyalty research, CEM, loyalty program and product/service development, customer win-back, service and channel quality, customer-driven corporate culture, human resource development, and strategic marketing and planning.

"Marketing Nuggets" will include observations regarding trends, and often study results, representing current, real-world issues of high importance to direct marketers. Those issues include omnichannel communication usage, mobile marketing, content, informal offline and online social communication, consumer behavior, message personalization, internal customer-centric processes and organization, strategic customer life cycle planning, proactive employee contribution, etc.

Most business leaders want to run an enterprise that is truly “great.” Some are satisfied with running a “good” business, and in many circumstances there is nothing wrong with that.

What's your brand verb? Yes, you read that right ... verb. Each and every day great brands are energized by verbs. Google searches. Nike inspires. Disney entertains. J.Jill uncomplicates. Apple creates. IKEA improves. LinkedIn networks. Chipotle nourishes. These verbs harness and direct all the brand activities for these organizations both internally and externally. Jim Collins writes that "Greatness is not a product of circumstance. Greatness is a function of conscious choice and discipline." Great brands purposefully and powerfully live by their brand verbs. Their greatness lies in this deliberate verb action-orientation day in and day out.

More than a buzzword, "being human," especially in brand-building and leveraging customer relationships, has become a buzz-phrase or buzz-concept. But, there is little that is new or trailblazing in this idea. To understand customers, the enterprise needs to think in human, emotional terms. To make the brand or company more attractive, and have more impact on customer decision-making, there must be an emphasis on creating more perceived value and more personalization. Much of this is, culturally, operationally, and from a communications perspective, what we have been describing as "inside-out advocacy" for years.

As a merchandising and branding strategist, I abide by Harvard Business School professor Clayton Christensen's profound axiom: "A product has a job to do for your customer." In addition, I remind my clients their products (or services) either enhance their brand or detract from it. Right now, I am in the midst of finishing my upcoming book: "ThinkAbout: 77 Creative Prompts for Your Merchandising Muse," and I am living in a verb-saturated world, contemplating all the ways a multitude of products and services from a vast collection of industries live up to Christensen's advice.

Listening to and observing all of this stress in brand leaders worries me. I am concerned first and foremost for these leaders' personal long term health costs in operating this way.

I want to talk about the F word. Not that F word, of course, but one that perhaps conjures up just as many emotionally negative connotations: failure. We don’t like to talk about it. We don’t like to admit that it could happen to us or has happened to us. Like superstitious old wives, we even think we might bring it on by talking about it. Many of us might remember the shock and dread in the pit of our stomachs when seeing a math test or English class essay riddled with red slashes. We try to forget about failure as quickly as possible.

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